My Weekends in Kyrgyzstan

Now that I have settled in to my work and life in Kyrgyzstan, things have become more routine. I am going out and traveling less, which also affects my blog as I do not have a lot to write about. In this post I will instead mention a few things I have done to fill my weekends.

Hiking Kol-Tor

On Sunday, September 18, I took my first full-day hike in Kyrgyzstan. Located in the Kegety Gorge (about an hour’s drive from Bishkek), the hike was advertised as needing “an average level of training and requires basic skills of being in the mountains.” For someone who is not acclimated to the elevation and not in the best cardiovascular shape, however, it was anything but “average.” Although I stopped regularly to catch my breath and rest, I eventually made it to the top to see the alpine lake Kol-Tor, which was well worth the climb.

In total, the entire trip took about 12 hours, and it was booked through the Trekking Union of Kyrgyzstan, a popular hiking group that attracts locals, expats, and travelers alike. This makes it a great way to meet locals if you are new to the country and connect with other expats. On the day I went, there were 54 hikers aged 12 to around 50. The organization’s trips are reasonably priced (I paid about $7) and provide transport to and from the hiking site. Since they regularly rotate their hikes I plan on going on more hikes in the future.

Ballet and Organ Music in Bishkek

On Saturday, September 24, my friends and I went to the ballet to see Swan Lake. While the quality of the performance was not on par with the ballet performances I have seen in St. Petersburg and Moscow, the value was unmatched. For some of the best seats in the theater, we only paid 450 som (a bit under $7) per person. On October 8, I saw Cholpon, a Kyrgyz ballet that immediately became one of my favorites. A story of star-crossed lovers, the ballet was colorful and lively, and was clearly a crowd pleaser. I hope to see it again if it is performed in the spring.

On October 7, my friend (and gracious host in Bishkek) David and I went to hear, Daniil Dvortsov, an organist from the St. Petersburg Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory. This was the first time I had heard organ music in person, and I thoroughly enjoyed the performance. Dvortsov played songs from French, Italian, German, and Russian composers, moving from the 17th century to the 20th. Although Dvortsov has performed in Bishkek before, the small auditorium in the beautiful Toktogul Satylganov Philharmonic was sold out.